Peers asked to support proper funding of the World Service

  • 30 Nov 2022

The BBC’s reputation as a world-class broadcaster is being severely undermined by cuts to the World Service.

As the House of Lord is set to debate “the importance of the BBC World Service and the impact of cuts to its services” on Thursday 1 December, the NUJ says the peers must call on the government to provide the funding needed to maintain its rating “as the number one international news provider on measures of quality and impact”.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“The BBC World Service remains a beacon of free press, in a world where increasingly despotic regimes are supressing the truth and clamping down on the news which exposes their atrocities and holds them to account. This makes the World Service a moral imperative, with many people having to tune into the BBC to find out what is going on in their own country – including the 10.8 million Iranians who use turn to the BBC once a week.

"This latest round of cuts will inevitably have an impact on the range and quality of the service. This is dangerous and short-sighted when its rival news sources from countries such as China and Saudi Arabia are there to fill the gap. The World Service contributes enormously to the UK’s international standing and reputation. This is why it should be paid for by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, and not the licence fee payer.”

  • The BBC is to cut the World Service’s budget by £28.5m per year from April 2023, with 382 posts (almost one in five) to go. This is a result of the government freezing the licence fee, soaring costs, inflation and to fund the BBC’s move to a digital-first service. Seven Asian-language services, Chinese, Gujarati, Igbo, Indonesian, Pidgin, Urdu, and Yoruba will become digital-only, meaning that almost half of the 41 foreign-language services will be digital-only. Some TV and radio programmes will stop, including BBC Arabic radio and BBC Persian radio.
  • BBC Language Services have played a vital role in covering protests in Iran, war in Ethiopia, and pro-democracy protests in Myanmar. This work has come at a huge personal cost for BBC’s journalists.
  • The union is concerned that as some of the language services currently based in London are closing and the offices moving to Asia, dozens of unnecessary job losses will result because many of the journalists will not be able to relocate owing to human rights issues in those countries.
  • The corporation’s latest brand tracker, in March 2020, showed the BBC continued to be rated as the number one international news provider on measures of quality and impact.
  • The cuts at the World Service have been compounded by the planned closure of the BBC News Channel and BBC World News, with the loss of 70 journalists, to create a new channel by next April. Having just the one channel will inevitably diminish the overall breath and diversity of content of domestic and international coverage. Many of the stories and packages created by the BBC News Channel are used across the corporation, including the World Service and its language services.   

More details from individual services: NUJ World Service briefing December 2022 

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